The choice made by teachers and tutors as to which English-teaching methodology is best depends on a number of factors.
These factors include the language needs of the learners, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, the availability of resources and teaching tools, course objectives, and programme duration.
The teacher’s teaching skills and personality should also be taken into account.
The personal language needs of individual learners are of paramount importance in planning any English course.
When teaching English as an additional or second language, two aspects come to the fore — pronunciation and grammar.
However, if a learner is to develop superior English language talents, a comprehensive teaching approach is required that focuses on all the macro skills.
These include both receptive skills (reading, listening and viewing) and productive skills (speaking, writing and interpreting).
Learners for whom English is an additional language (EAL) have to contend with issues that primary English speakers don’t, such as English sounds that do not exist in their native language, words and concepts for which there are no native language equivalents, and even religious inhibitions.
EAL teachers must be “culturally conscious” to the point of researching ethnic diversity and differences.
For example, a simple factor like age can determine the “sophistication” of the teaching methodology adopted, especially when members of a teaching group vary greatly in age and maturity.
Likewise, gender can influence which teaching resources are applied in the learning process, and can also affect the seating arrangement of a teaching environment.
The availability of technology and tools will determine whether some e-learning programs can be used. The absence of computers, audio systems, CD-DVD players and equipment such as LCD projectors, can hinder accelerated learning.
Moreover, self-paced learning programmes can be inhibited and the use of self-learning and language-discovery techniques can be greatly restricted.
Here are some general points for teachers and learners of EAL to consider:
·Learners need as much exposure to the language as possible.
Mastering English requires using it in a myriad of appropriate communicative circumstances – on a daily basis, and not just a few hours a week in a classroom.
·Learners need regular, directed input from teachers and tutors.
Self-discovery is a “feel good” concept for many modern linguists.
However, experience has shown that the learning process is accelerated when learners are taught about the language and are guided and directed by competent, professional teachers.
·Teaching goals need to centre on learners understanding the attributes of English.
Teachers need to impart skills that repair, reinforce and raise learners’ communicative talents in any situation — not just knowing how to say and write words.
·Learners need to be able to accelerate the self-learning process.
This is done by acquiring the art of “skills transfer”, whereby the knowledge they gain about one word (how it is spoken and spelt), is transferred to other related words, for example: convention > inventor > preventative.
·Real-life, simulated, situational language experiences — applying to rent an apartment, for example — certainly enhance personal conversational confidence.
However, they are not enough alone to achieve English competency.
·Learners need to be prepared to be constantly self-correcting, and self-critical of their own language proficiency. They need to also be willing to accept constructive comment from others whose opinions they respect.
·Self-discovery has a part to play in the learning of a second language, but appropriate input will always significantly maximise the learning outcome.
·The acquisition of both quality vocabulary and grammar skills is a prerequisite to being a superior English speaker and writer.
The enhancement and refinement of vocabulary and grammar talents requires a problem –solution approach, as well as practice, practice and practice!
·Learners should be encouraged to experiment with the new language for themselves by using new, different and superior words when speaking or writing on a daily basis.
Using the thesaurus is a great way to discover new words.
Learners need to see early results from their initial learning efforts and quickly come to believe they can do it.
·Anxiety, stress and competition within a teaching setting need to be minimised for effective language learning.
·Learners need to enjoy learning and “own” the new language they are acquiring.
When the objective is to quickly and effectively develop, repair, reinforce and refine individual English language skills, this column contends that The 4S Approach To Literacy And Language is the most effective methodology available to the modern English teacher today.
However, regardless of the method chosen by the teacher, the most important consideration should be the ultimate benefits for the learner.
n Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.
He is also the Director of International Language Academy (ILA).
The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Program (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English language proficiency of people from a diverse range of cultures and with different competency levels.